With Barbados’ murder rate reaching worrying proportions last year and some of the accused including persons already on bail for alleged killings, a former Attorney General is concerned that prison is no longer the deterrent it used to be.
In an interview this week with Barbados TODAY, Adriel Brathwaite, who served in the Freundel Stuart Cabinet in the ten years prior to 2018, contended that a prison sentence was now seen as a badge of honour by those with whom these young offenders associate.
“From what I have been seeing and hearing, fellas going to prison is now like a badge of honour. We have to take stock of ourselves and what we are doing because when these fellas come back out of prison, they find that they can still get a nice looking girl and she doesn’t mind that he has been to prison. So, when these youngsters leave prison and return to their original environment where they have now elevated in ranking, there is no incentive to change,” Brathwaite contended.
“I pass by the prison quite often and when you see them up there, you have to wonder if it was the same person that was acting with all of the bravado in the court yard when they were being sent up. The fellas put up a good face when they are going in and when they are coming back out and there is more acceptance when they come back out among their peers,” he added.
Brathwaite further opined that while he did not believe life behind bars has gotten easier, the social consequences which once accompanied life after prison no longer existed. And he contended that parents had to take some of the blame as very few were prepared to let their children suffer the consequences of their actions, regardless of their financial circumstances.
“When I pass by the prison, I see people who appear to be the poor and the disadvantaged standing up the beside the road after going to see their loved ones in prison. These are people who don’t appear to be wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but yet they find money to pay for the attorneys. Somewhere along the line, they still find money to deal with the bail,” he said.
“So, in some ways they are sending the wrong signal to their children. I tell my children that I don’t do embarrassment well and there is no reason for them to be involved in any criminal behaviour and if they do, don’t call me.”
The former AG told Barbados TODAY that successive Governments have commissioned countless studies pertaining to the root causes of crime, yet little action has been taken to address the systemic problems.
“There are persons who have written studies about murders and would have pointed out that a lot of these offenders come from certain geographic spaces. What are we doing as a society to ensure that there is change? Many of these murderers have the same geographic space in common, they grow with the same influences,” Brathwaite said.
“We may have to consider an approach for these areas and, in some cases, we may have to move some of these persons out from where they are. If I had my way there are certain parts of Bridgetown, for example, where people can’t breathe properly or you can’t snore without your neighbours hearing, that I would simply clear out. We as a society have to determine how we are going to show these persons a better way.”